Who’s up and who’s down in health and research this week?

1. ‘The dog ate my whole doctor’s surgery.’ Yep, it’s those dastardly GPs again. Ever since the weekend news that many cancers are first diagnosed in A&E we’ve seen the excuses just roll off their collective tongues. So much so you’d think they’d said them before. We’re underfunded, underpaid. stunned by so much change, and very, very, very, very busy. Expect more of the same in response to the Care Quality Commission report this evening. Most definitely DOWN.

2. ‘The NHS is listing.’ So the HSJ published its annual top 100 superheroes in healthcare list today. All puerile nonsense really. The HSJ even hosts a party for them all. Given that the first individual with patient credentials appears at #37 on this year’s list, I suspect the only patients and members of the public at the party will be serving canapés. And we wonder what’s wrong with the NHS. DOWN.

3. ‘Research is the new dating.’ The Health Research Authority (HRA) has announced a consultation on good practice in approaching people to take part in research. Good move I say. Too many ethics committees would rather we recruit people to research using methods similar to MI6 at Oxford or Cambridge in the 50s. More on this later but they are most definitely UP UP UP!

4. ‘Cut-price PPI.’ With the January sales just a few weeks away it’s heartening to hear that the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is keen to make an impression. But cutting the reimbursement of patient and public involvement colleagues from £150 a day to £80 overnight and without consultation is just a little bit crass. Remind me, what does the campaign slogan say: ‘no research happens without participation.’ NCRI is DOWN in my book. Sorry.

5. ‘Results? Don’t worry your little head about that!’ So we learnt this week that 4 out of 5 participants in research would like to be informed about the results of studies they have taken part in. But only 1 in 5 get them. Shame. Research is for life not just for Christmas. But why not take the opportunity of the festive season to sign-up to #AllTrials who are definitely UP.

6. ‘Exeter is the new Bonsai beach of PPI.’ Congrats to PenCLAHRC on what I heard was a fantastic PPI conference a few weeks ago. I say ‘heard’ because I wasn’t invited. Not that I bear a grudge or anything. Now, where’s NIHR’s number…..? UP, I say, UP

7. ‘Researchers like their toys.’ How dare we question the basis and funding for the 6,234th study into whether music and singing in a care home leads to happier residents? Of course it bloody does! Similarly I have yet to fully understand why the ESRC thinks it is a good use of public money to spend £425k to study how children play with Action Man. They could just have called on my house and spent Sunday afternoon with my sons – for the price of a cucumber sandwich or two! The ESRC is DOWN.

8. ‘Dementia wasn’t cured in a summit.’ Let me be clear, the G8 Dementia Summit today is a good thing in my view. But whether we’ve seen Jeremy Hunt march us all up the mountain and then back down again like the Grand Old Duke of York remains to be seen. In the meantime put your trust in the ‘10,000’ and many more people with dementia and their carers who will get us there through their involvement. For that reason, and that reason alone, UP!

9. ‘Think AHSN, think Secret Santa.’ If you had been at the AMRC AGM two weeks ago you’d have thought Christmas had come early in research with the advent of AHSNs. They are going to solve all our problems.

Up and down the country the same encounter is taking place in dark alleys between researchers and policymakers: ‘My mate Nicholson tells me (sniff) you’ve got a problem with your test tubes and stuff. Well, I know just the bloke to help you, works for one of ’em AHSNs. Goes by the name of…’

But let’s get real. With less money and little consistency in approach, working with AHSNs is going to be more like the office secret Santa.  What that means, my hardy patient and public colleagues, is that your particular Secret Santa may have forgotten all about you I am afraid. So, AHSNs are neither UP or DOWN my Christmas chimney. The jury is most surely out.

10. ‘You know who you are.’ The term ‘patient leader’ is being purloined and skewered left right and centre.   Beware management consultants and so-called ‘public engagement experts’ on the make especially. Patient leaders, rise above it I say! We’ve seen it all before. We are all on the UP.

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